The 87th Annual Academy Awards

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The Academy Awards are this Sunday night, and a pair of local theatres are hosting festivities. The Central Cinema‘s shindig starts at 4 pm while the Grand Cinema (hosting the party at Theatre on the Square) kicks things off at 4:30.

Here’s a brief look at the top contenders for this year’s Academy Awards:

Boyhood: Filmed a little bit at a time over 12 years, director Richard Linklater’s epic portray of one boy’s coming of age made a whole generation of male film critics weep with self-recognition. It’s a fine film, and Linklater, one of the best filmmakers of his generation, may finally get some awards recognition. Almost certainly Patricia Arquette will for her supporting performance as The Boy’s mother.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): The inexplicably parenthesized title of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s study of an actor on the edge of insanity is the dark horse (dark bird?) contender for the major awards, but will almost certainly take home the prize for Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography, given how many people equate length-of-shot with quality-of-shot. Less certain are Michael Keaton’s chances at Best Actor. He should be in more, better things.

The Grand Budapest Hotel: Wes Anderson has his best ever shot at the Oscars this year, with his first Directing and Picture nominations to go along with his third Screenplay nomination (he was also nominated for Best Animated Film in 2009). He’s never won, and his best shot this year is probably in the Original Screenplay category. The film is also a heavy favorite in Production Design, Costume Design and Makeup.

American Sniper: Clint Eastwood’s latest box office smash is a stealth Best Picture contender, but will likely have to settle for simply making a ton of money. Brady Cooper received his third and fourth nominations in the past three years for Producing and Acting in this film. remember when he was Jennifer Garner’s goofy best friend on Alias?

Selma: The biggest snubs of the season were Ava DuVernay missing out on a Directing nomination and David Oyelowo for Best Actor. This might be the best of the Best Picture nominees, but it has no chance to win. It will likely earn only Best Song as a consolation prize, which is pretty awful in a lot of ways.

The Imitation Game: This won the Writer’s Guild Award for Adapted Screenplay, which is absolutely appalling. And it’ll probably win the Oscar too. There is likely to be no less deserving winner Sunday night.

The Theory of Everything: The best chance this by the numbers biopic has for a win is for Eddie Redmayne, for his performance as a real person with a disability, which is perennially an Oscar lock. Only sentimentality toward cinema’s third greatest Keaton can stop him. The film has a shot at Best Score, too.

Whiplash: A lock for Best Supporting Actor for JK Simmons, who has been one of our best supporting actors for years. A very good chance in Sound Mixing as well. I like it’s chances for Editing, though that could go to Boyhood instead. The Academy tends to favor volume in that category, and Whiplash has the most editing of the year. That the quick cutting is impeccably timed and used to expressive purpose is a bonus, largely irrelevant to its Oscar chances.

Best Actress: It’s been making the rounds on the internet in recent weeks the fact that the films that annually contend for the Best Actress Oscar are almost never winners, or even nominees in any other categories. That is again the case this year, with Julienne Moore likely to win for Still Alice. It’s kind of shocking considering just how good Two Days, One Night and Gone Girl are, both of which should have been multiple nominees anchored by terrific lead performances (by Marion Cotillard and Rosamund Pike, respectively). Also shocking is that Anna Kendrick isn’t nominated despite giving three fantastic lead performances in 2014, in Happy Christmas, The Last Five Years, and Into the Woods. Perhaps it was her supporting turn as Jennifer Aniston’s ghost-mentor in Cake that knocked her out of contention (Aniston got shut out as well).

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya: Isao Takahata’s film, likely the last production by Studio Ghibli’s two masters (Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises lost to Frozen last year), probably has no shot at Best Animated Feature (How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the heavy favorite), but if it did somehow get the prize, no win on Oscar night would make us happier.

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